Roberta J. Duffy
Did you know half of the world' population lives on less than $2/day? And while we enjoy the extensive uses of technology, less than 5 percent of the world's citizens have access to the Internet? Contrast these statistics with the fact that 51 of the largest economies in the world are corporations. With that kind of financial strength comes the ability and obligation to effect change for those less fortunate. This was just one of the themes expressed as ISM's 89th Annual International Supply Management Conference kicked off activities Sunday afternoon, with a keynote address by Dick Conrad, senior vice president of global operations, supply chain for Hewlett-Packard (HP). Conrad discussed HP's Social and Environmental Program, which is the manifestation of the company's commitment to global citizenship.
Conrad provided some examples of how HP incorporates socially responsible initiatives into its business operations. For instance, under a program called "Design for Environment," which was begun 10 years ago, the firm recognizes that the environmental performance of many products is determined at the design stage. By designing with a corporate conscious in mind, HP was able to develop printers that have parts which snap together, eliminating the need for adhesives that could be environmentally unsafe. HP is also experimenting with the prototype of a printer that is biodegradable, derived from corn maize. While it's not quite ready for the consumer market, it illustrates the type of environmentally friendly thinking that HP feels is essential.
Conrad offered the following strategies and considerations for any organization taking on a global citizenship initiative:
Commit. This means that senior management must be engaged, including the senior managements of your suppliers. Expectations should be set and the program should be put into writing. These activities articulate the commitment.
Create Awareness. The program and its goals need to be continually reinforced, setting the context with employees and the supply base. Develop a Web site; make the program an agenda item that routinely gets discussed and stays on people's radar screens. It's also important to share and sell the benefits of the program. Conrad confirms that HP suppliers know that those commit to the HP program will enjoy a larger share of the business.
Communicate and collaborate. Open communication and active engagement is much more effective than any policing actions. This communication leads to rapid improvement.
Partnering for Success. Partnerships occur on several levels, including a) internal stakeholders (particularly those supplier-facing people), b) supply chain members, c) industry groups, d) government offices, and e) non-government organizations.
Conrad admits that the journal to social responsibility is not always an easy journey, but it is important to remember that it is just that: a journey. He reiterates that it's important just to start by doing whatever you can. If you want until all the policies are place and you have a complete plan, chances are that day will never comes. Just get the journey started.
By Roberta J. Duffy, editor of Inside Supply Management®